Saturday, November 24, 2018

Don't cry at my departure

Waterfall by the Riverbank

The weeks leading up to the examination period was a torture because it forced me to juggle the task of stripping the residence of my belongings and dealing with the parties involved while revising for Evidence. I have no idea whether I did enough to warrant a bare pass or not. At the time of this post, I am drafting this in an airplane while having a mixture of annoyance and anger after experiencing one of the worst delays of my life. An hour of delay’s fine with me because I understand that there are things out of the air traffic tower’s control, but not when it is an avoidable delay. We were supposed to depart Adelaide at 9.30am ACDT (which is about 7 am Malaysian time), but it was delayed to 12 pm ACDT (9.30 am MYT) before the flight was cleared for take-off at 1 pm ACDT (11.30am MYT). The arrival time was almost four hours behind - not sure how those with connecting flights are able to make it, especially if it is on different airlines.

Ugh, thank heavens I don’t intend on flying anywhere after this for a long, long time.

I’m not sure if I have the right to whine about the indescribable stress that I’ve landed myself and everyone in, regardless of the shipment or my flight. Let’s just say that I haven’t been in the right frame for 75% of the semester. It didn’t help that something out of the ordinary occurred in the same week as the Evidence exam. I don’t want to publicly speak of it because it has a negative connotation it, but it sent shockwaves to those who were there at the wrong time. I highly doubt that I’ll forget it in the snap of the fingers. I don’t think I’m directly affected, but my heart still skips a beat whenever there are similar traces of it. I was lucky in the sense that I have a type of coping mechanism where my body shakes off the effects at a much later time than everyone else. Or maybe I understood the inferences leading up to the event as a lay (not observational, or that would have caused unnecessary hassle) witness and the possible reasons behind it.

On to happier news.

I received the message a couple of days before the exam and while I wasn’t in the mood to entertain any request for catch ups and its equivalent, I forced myself to say yes. Don’t get me wrong; I know that I should be indoors to recharge, but if we don’t meet up for a farewell meal, only God knows when we will meet again. That’s how life works; even though there is a promise to keep in contact, chances of drifting apart would be there. It has happened to me so often that I’m used to it. With that in mind, I agreed to the good friend’s request to meet up (although the delivery man was coming the next day to collect the shipment). I also didn’t want him to spend the money to courier the Christmas/birthday presents all the way to my place back home. He might’ve been willing to have done so, but I didn’t want my parents to misinterpret his sincerity - since I’m somewhat in a sticky situation now.

Each of us endeavored to make the best out of the limited time that we had with each other. Yet there were traces of their sadness influencing their body languages; the signs would be there if you know how and where to look. We started off with lunch at the Malaysian restaurant near our campus. One of the co-owners is our junior in law school. While I don’t know him personally, I’ve seen his name floating around. While the flavors can’t compete with the traditional ones back home, it’s close enough to the ones I’m used to. The meal was followed by an afternoon at the nearby Botanic Gardens, which was the good friend’s suggestion.

Flower wall by the Botanic Gardens

A curved wall of grass

Growing up in a tropical country and spending almost four years in a dry climate, the heat should’ve been bearable, but nope. I was more than ready to throw myself into a freezer or somewhere air-conditioned to cool down. I’m more comfortable with humidity, not heat. Yet we found it in us to capture as many pictures as we possibly could in the Botanic Gardens. After knowing the good friend for some time now, it didn’t surprise me when I saw him focusing on something on his phone. It turned out to be a video and picture of us thinking of ways to climb the tree for a pose. Even if I wore a tracksuit, I’ll never take the risk because I’m not tall or agile enough. We didn’t have any onlookers protesting, which is a relief because the last thing I wanted was for us to be chased out or one of us to sustain a back injury.

I guess I expected the good friend and the sister to sneak in photographs of me whenever they could, which was why I didn’t see that coming. It was a picture of me and the good friend from the back, engaged in a conversation of our own while the sister and her boyfriend were a couple of steps behind us.

The eventual number of pictures was jaw-dropping, but when you have access to a smartphone with the latest technology (not mine, the good friend’s), it should be expected. The very fact that I’m departing should have been a great indicator of what was to come. By the time we left the Botanic Gardens, we were coated in a film of sweat and parched from the heat. I was more than ready to head home to crash after spending an afternoon under the torturous sun - yet there was a final element to our hangout. The good friend suggested to watch a film and left the ball in my court, throwing caution to the wind but not expecting me to decide on ‘A Star is Born’.

It was a 3 to 1 decision to watch the film because it had a romantic flair with a touch of emotions on it. There were moments in the plot when you couldn’t help but be touched by what the characters experienced. Gosh, even though I watched the trailer as a cinema advertisement twice, it never indicated the level of tear-jerking scenes. The finale left us on a somber note - although my eyes shone with tears when Jackson played the beginnings of ‘I’ll Never Love Again’. I had listened to it once or twice a couple of days after the movie’s OST was released on YouTube - and Lady Gaga successfully brought out the emotions that Ally faced as a result of the unexpected circumstances. The main song’s bridge left me with a cold hand on my spine, which illustrates the level of emotions Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga portrayed as Jackson Maine and Ally respectively. In fact, I’m listening to it (‘Shadow’) on repeat as I try not to fall asleep on my keyboard on the plane.

All of us were bone-tired after the movie, but we weren’t ready to say our goodbyes and depart from each other’s company just yet. Because two of us were starving, we headed in the direction of a newly-opened Japanese restaurant on the other end of the street. As the evening drew to an end, we were wrapped in an awkward aura. It finally dawned on us that this is it. There’s no reason to deny the truth any further. Farewell hugs were exchanged and the moment I exchanged an embrace with the good friend, I swear that I felt his heart shattering into pieces. Just a glance into his eyes was enough to make my heart weigh heavier than a boulder. I saw a silent plea beginning me to return to Adelaide some time in the future - if not to stay on for a couple more years. I would’ve done so if things didn’t turn out this way. Yet he summoned everything from the depths of his soul to remain strong in front of us and in public. His shoulders sagged the moment he went in the opposite direction to his bus stop.

Flowers by the Showgrounds

The sister’s eyes swam with tears when it was her turn to bid me adieu - as we’d be separated by distance and sea. The three of us always knew that this day would eventually come yet it was tough to swallow it. I'm someone who doesn't let her truest thoughts show easily, but I know what is going on. If one of us opens the floodgates, it's a chain reaction for the rest. It hit me pretty bad even though I'm not a stranger to departures and farewells. Maybe it's because I've regarded them both as dear to me. They were aware that my situation is a tad bit unique when compared to theirs. Describing it as unique is actually an understatement because it is more complicated than I’ve let on. It was after all a decision that I was forced to make; it wasn’t like I had the best deck of cards or Lady Luck shining her magical wand on me. Trust me, if the latter occurred, the situation would’ve been different and I might’ve found a reason warranting me not to leave.

Although I foresaw this to occur, it was hard to digest. It pained me inasmuch as it did for them. Four years is not a short time - and I basically met them both in the first couple of weeks after the semester commenced. The good friend and I met through a shared class. I arrived in law school earlier to ensure that I found the seminar room and leaned against the wall, waiting for the rest of the students and my tutor to come. I felt a pair of eyes sometime later and looked up to see a grinning youngster, which was the good friend. Being the polite kid that I am, I acknowledged the smile and returned to whatever it was that I did. I’ll never know the reason behind this (and will never ask him), but the moment he entered the room, he chose the seat next to me. As for the sister, I met her during the barbecue event organized by the law school. I can’t remember whether I was queuing with someone else, but I remember my conversation being interrupted by a hyper child (the sister). One thing led to another and we shared classes (or at least the ones for the core courses) for the remaining years.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

我們卻一樣 / Yet we are the same



妳快撐不下, 那我懂。

I’ve dreamt of you before,
But you’ll never know about it.
I’ve no intention to tell you.
In my dream, you had a kind of exhaustion in your expression.
Is it because you have experienced too many sadness?
I’m not sure.
You’re in fact younger than me.
But in the dream, you looked older.
I saw your exhaustion;
You want to rest on someone’s shoulder,
But you can no longer recognize who your true friends are.

I suspect whether my decision to leave caused you pain.
I had no choice but to do so.
I won’t force you to comprehend my decision.
Or maybe you can empathize with the pain I’ve experienced.
I believe you missed our friendship in the beginning.
Otherwise, why did I dream of you suddenly?
But now that time has passed, you are used to my absence.
Maybe you understood why I left in this manner.
Flew to another country without a word.
Truth be told, my heart is weary.
It’s starting to bleed.

I’m not happy,
But everyone thinks I’m okay.
But my friends won’t know it.
Even you won’t.
In my dreams, your eyes glimmered with agony.
I understand that you can no longer hold on.
I knew that you were unhappy from the beginning.
Because you were once hurt by someone,
That’s why you forced yourself to be the worst version of yourself.
I’m the same as you now.
Prioritizing ourselves over others.

Friday, November 9, 2018


I dreamt that I ran into an acquaintance that I knew from O-Week in a place that was similar to our faculty. We agreed to catch up in a coffeehouse that was mutually suitable for us.

The next scene panned to us entering the said cafe and choosing an empty table before we dumped our lunch boxes to order something from the baristas. The layout reminded me of Coffee Bean, especially with the menus printed on the wooden boards above the cashier and the use of a material that resembled oak wood. Yet it was not the ones that I have patronized in my waking life. This particular one had a more open and different vibe to it.

I scanned the menu to see whether my favorite drink was still available or not. When it was my turn to order, there were regular-sized cups of matcha latte waiting at the collection area for their respective owners to collect and enjoy. The barista was about to ask me which size I wanted, so I cleared my throat and replied that a regular size would suit me.

By the time my friend and I returned to our table, our lunch boxes had disappeared and I turned to one of the baristas to ask if she knew what happened. The cleaner stood up and said that she threw it away, thinking that the previous customers of that table didn’t want their food.

Something must be wrong if I have continuous dreams. The acquaintance is indeed someone whom I know in real life and yes, we met during the barbecue event organized by the Union to welcome international students. And yes, we were studying in the same faculty. The reason why I said ‘were’ because he has since graduated and I’m en-route to completion.

Me having a dream about coffeehouse and hanging out with a friend would have two interpretations to it. One is that I’m craving for my Iced Blended Vanilla and Chicago Cheesecake (you guys would know which coffee chain I’m referring to if it’s your favorite haunt), lol. The second is that my subconscious craves for that emotional connection with friends who are understanding of my state of mind.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Mixture of emotions and life

I dreamt that it was our group’s turn to present to the lecturer and our peers. Instead of the whole tutorial speaking, the two of us were appointed to present our findings to the class and run the show on our own.

We decided to test the raw footage in the meeting room to see if there were any last-minute edits that were needed. There was a row of couches in front of a projector screen and recliners behind. It was devoid of any decorations, but what struck me was the smell of the room. Although it wasn’t offensive, it was pungent and musty - as if the windows weren’t open for a long time. Once we were satisfied that the video was perfect, we headed to the presentation room.

The presentation room was scattered with the batch of students from Evidence, but in a darker place than our lecture theatre. Yet we found ourselves dealing with technical difficulties - even though we tried it with two different computers.

The footage was alright on the computers, but when it came to the actual presentation, it was as if the footage was possessed. Not only was the one on the projector screen being affected, even the one on my Mac was showing signs of rebelling. There was white noise and the words were scrunched up. I stopped the recording while the two of us tried to resolve it without allowing the panic and embarrassment leak onto our faces.

The lecturer entered the room and asked if everything was okay after he saw the reaction from the audience and our panicked body language. I sad that the technology crashed on us for no reason - although we tried it in two different places.

My teammate threw in the towel minutes after a couple of minutes and spoke to the lecturer about starting afresh or coming to a compromise. I apologized to the audience about the sudden change of events.

Okay. This is one of the most realistic dreams I’ve had - because it’s a reflection of what recently transpired. The fact that the computers in the presentation room and the raw footage malfunctioned would be indicative that something in me is exhausted and not working at its best. That’s what the dream interpretation said - ‘You feel as though you can't seem to connect, can't reach him or her, that you keep losing touch. You can't reach someone on an emotional level, or feel that something in your body is not working properly.’

As for the weird smell in the presentation room, since ‘smell is the sense most closely associated with emotional memory — just think about how evocative certain scents can be — and the one most closely tied to mental health and happiness.’ Based on this alone, is it safe to say that my mental health has crashed from the pressure of dealing with a million things? Am I losing traces of happiness and descending straight into that black hole?

Since I had a dream about the lecturer, it has a positive and negative interpretation to it. The positive side is that I’ve a breakthrough to the mess that I now face. The negative aspect is the ‘embarrassing truths or feeling the reality of a situation telling you what to do. Coming to scary or unpleasant conclusions that you realize are true. Feeling terrified that you have to do something differently than you currently are.' If that is the case, it means the line between black and white has been blurred.

The lecturer teaching the course in the dream is a reflection of reality because in my waking life, it is exactly that. I’m not sure if it’s the bi-annual academic anxiety dream or a mixture of the academic pressure and my exhausted brain.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018


I dreamt of my History lecturer having a word with us in the middle of the forest. I don’t remember the context of the outdoor class, but to reward us for our hard work, he would treat us to a meal and organize a field trip for us to take a breather. The caveat was that we each had to pay for our flights. It didn’t bother me much because I wanted an opportunity to get away from everything that I know.

The next scene involved me being spooned by my boyfriend, but I wasn’t in the mood for any physical or intimate contact in that moment and shoved him away from me.

The camera then panned to the scene where my family and I travelled along Section 5 with Papa Carrie being at the wheel. We passed by a temple and a school field. I complained that I was exhausted with everything that has occurred through my academic journey. Mama Carrie echoed her agreement from the backseat as she saw the effects on me. He turned to me and said not to throw in the towel and that the hard work will pay off in soon as the light is at the end of the tunnel.

I’m relieved that the people that was with me in the dream wasn’t the ones I’m acquainted with. That would incur lots of embarrassment, but I’m aware that the common theme of this dream is the desire to relax. Or maybe I’ve the sense that my life is in tatters right now.

As for the car scene, it sounded as if Papa Carrie wanted to give me words of encouragement to continue with life since it's a long journey ahead of me. At this stage of my degree, I've had enough of listening to words of encouragement because it has the opposite effect on me. It doesn't give me the motivation, but rather a sense of continual dislike. In addition, by me dreaming that I'm a passenger is highly indicative that I've given up control of my life's direction and am directly influenced by the actions of others. Another possibility is the fact that I've placed the interests of others before myself, which is true in some ways. I've depleted all of my energy and sacrificed my mental state so that others receive the benefit - and look what good it did for me.

I was a tad bit surprised when I saw the temple, not knowing what it symbolised. The dream interpretation claimed that this meant the level of attention I've been giving to it. Would this mean that my body's starved of the necessary attention it wants? Maybe I've not given enough self care to it. According to the dream interpretation, the alternative definition of seeing the temple means that I desire a place to rest my weary head. I also want to find a place in my heart to bury all the irreplaceable memories.

Monday, November 5, 2018






Even at 4 am, I’m wide awake after finishing the exam guide by hand. I don’t usually take notes by hand, but I noticed that it helps to cement the knowledge and understanding of the content. I know I need it, especially since I’ve screwed myself this semester. The beauty is that I’ve always realised the reason lies with me and it’s a bitter medicine to swallow when I know that I’m better than this.

Four years of biting the tree bark is coming to an end. Four years of suppressing my emotions and feigning perfection has done its damage of altering my state of mind. I’m aware that I should let the ocean waves take me to wherever it wants to, but it’s hard to retain a positive mind when all you see are the bad and the ugly. It somehow alters your perception on everything you thought you know well. One way or another, it’s an uphill battle. I’m not saying that I don’t have what others have because I know friends who would be more than willing to swap positions with me if the opportunity arises. The truth of the matter is that I took a divergent route and am now paying for it. It suits me due to practical reasons, but if you talk about its suitability, it’s not what I wanted.

If it is, why does it feel like I’m losing the battle?

Maybe it’s true; I was never comfortable enough to consider staying back and never gave voice to my thoughts as there is no necessity for it. I’ve had enough of placing others before myself when I’m running on an empty tank. Maybe I never truly fitted in. There’s something missing and I can’t seem to find it. I just want to be left alone and let the broken pieces of me heal - or run the risk of crashing and burning before my time is up. I’m already en-route to that ending as we speak and I don’t fancy the consequences. I know that there are changes as I’m losing the motivation to concentrate and focus. I just want to hide in bed and sleep... since there are no emotions involved when you sleep. No anger. No sadness. Just nothing.

Leaving would be a better choice since there are no reasons warranting me to remain here - and that is something I’m thankful for. I need to dedicate some time in a familiar place for myself. I’ve had enough of plastering a smile and all I want is to punch a wall. Okay, maybe a pillow … since it costs less to replace pillows than to repair walls. I’ve the flexibility to pack my bags and bid adios to this place. Do I regret that one decision? Yes, it was the precursor to the mess I feel now. Would I have chosen another route had I seen it coming? No, but I would’ve approached it with a different lens. Yet a part of me suspects that the disappointment and shock around me are a mere facade to mask their true intentions as they are relieved to see me leave. My light does not burn as brightly as it once did. It has dimmed to the point of being extinguished soon.

The question is … why I’m receiving flashbacks of this residential area somewhere in KL that I have visited as a young girl of maybe 8. There was a beautiful clubhouse that served lovely food. It was also a quiet place that seemed lovely to raise a family - with a water fountain at the entrance, which gave off a rich aura. Could it be a sign that my subconscious wants to return to the stress-free childhood days? A sign that I’ve placed myself under too much stress? Well, it makes sense as my sleeping pattern has gone away. If not for coffee and afternoon naps, I think I suffer from a severe case of sleep deprivation.
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